Scrum Gathering Seattle: CST Retreat

I was at the Scrum Gathering in Seattle, where I got to participate in the CST Retreat followed by the three-day conference. As almost every attendee agreed, this was one of the best conferences I’ve attended so far. Kudos to Bryan Stallings and the entire team at the Scrum Alliance for putting together this show.

In this post, I want to focus on my experience of becoming a CST (Certified Scrum Trainer).

The CST Interview Process

After contemplating becoming a CST for years, I eventually applied and was rather surprised by the process — the CST certification process happened two days before the retreat.

Certified Scrum Trainer SolutionsIQThe CST application process is one of the widely debated topics in the Scrum world. But in all fairness, I felt that the process I saw was a fair one and something I am proud to have participated in. The theme of the CST approval process was “Raising the Bar”. I had a fairly intensive application process that got reasonable follow-up by Scrum Alliance. Although at times I felt I I didn’t know where the application went, when I sent an email to the Alliance there was a quick response.

A few days before the interview, I got an email from the Scrum Alliance that listed a series of topics that we may be asked to speak about. One that was of particular interest to me was “Scrum and Infrastructure”. My rule was if I wasn’t already prepared for all the topics, then I should not even have qualified. Still I spent a day or so, thinking about these topics and writing down key points that I would address if that topic was chosen.

The panel consisted of well-known coaches and others whom I highly respect and some I had never met before. Even the CST review committee admitted they were very tense as they were not very clear how exactly they would proceed. They had done their homework well and were prepared to scrutinize us. Some of the reviewers recused themselves, since they knew me too well. On the day of the interview, I felt the way I did when I went for my MBA selection interview at the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Business in 2003. I am not sure why, but that is how I felt.


First session: An informal chat with a group of CSTs

We sat down and I was asked a series of questions. This session was meant to break the ice. Many in this panel had read my application, my blog, etc., but had not met me. I did not even know many of these CSTs. I think this part put me a bit at ease. One particular question I remember was “ What makes you a different type of Scrum Trainer?”.

Second Session: Presentation

I left for a walk with another CST applicant to see Pike Place Market. Whenever I’m in Seattle and visit the Market it always puts me in a good mood — may be it’s because I like seafood. I came back post-lunch (with what I would describe as a strong dose of Starbucks coffee) to the afternoon presentatation. I waited out for my name to be called, and I felt like I was walking into completely unknown territory.

I was given a topic, and the CSTs were listening to me talk and try various techniques to keep the group interested. The time flew by really quickly. I remember coming out of it tired and still tense.

Evening came and it was time for the decision. There was an odd silence in that room. Many applicants were rejected; only two of us got through. Like any other Scrum session, there was a retrospective done to see how this process can be improved.

I am quite aware that there are ways that things can always be improved and I am positive that the Scrum Alliance is doing all the right things to make the experience a great one for all future CST candidates.

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